Supreme Court commentary renews debate on adoption as an alternative to abortion

Year after year, several thousand women in the United States carry an unwanted pregnancy to term and then offer the baby for adoption. It is a choice recommended by many enemies of abortion.

Yet despite a huge demand for babies from Americans willing to adopt, perhaps 40 times more women opt for an abortion, and a large majority of those who give birth choose to keep the child.

The reason, say those familiar with unintended pregnancies, is that even under these circumstances, a strong bond is likely to form between the expectant mother and the developing baby – and greatly complicate any decision to pass the baby. new born.

This idea is well known to doctors, clinic operators, and other abortion rights advocates, who say recent comments by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and other opponents abortion perpetuates a misleading narrative that adoption can negate the need for abortion.

“It is ridiculous to say that it is not a problem to eliminate abortion – it is enough to place the children for adoption,” said Elizabeth Bartholet, professor of law at Harvard University and a strong advocate of the law. ‘adoption. “It won’t be an emotionless non-event. There are going to be bonds and connections, and the feeling that it is not natural to give up your child. “

Discussion over adoption as an alternative to abortion intensified this month when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments over a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks. If the conservative majority in the High Court upholds the law, it could lead to Roe’s demise against Wade, the 1973 ruling that established a national abortion right, and allow conservative states to impose sweeping bans.

During arguments, Barrett, an adoptive mother, said women who give birth due to lack of access to abortion could avoid being forced into parenthood by leaving the baby in a safe place without fear of criminal consequences, so that the child can be adopted.

“It’s just not the reality,” said Ashley Brink, director of a clinic run by abortion rights group Trust Women in Wichita, Kan. “It undermines people’s decisions and choices and their ability to control their lives and futures.”

Bartholet described the justice comments as “breathtaking” in failing to recognize the deep emotional connections many women have with their babies, even when the result of an unwanted pregnancy.

These bonds can become more powerful immediately after birth, said Grace Howard, who has worked as a doula to help women give birth and women seeking abortions.

“Your body tells me, ‘Leap! Leap, damn it! ‘ Said Howard, assistant professor of forensic studies at San Jose State.

The US government tracks the number of children adopted out of foster homes and foreign countries, but there are no official and complete figures on private infant adoptions. Nonetheless, it is clear that only a small fraction of women carry unintended pregnancies to term and then place the baby for adoption.

In 2014, there were about 18,000 private adoptions of infants nationwide, according to the National Adoption Council, a private organization serving abortion agencies and other parties. In the same year, there were 926,190 abortions in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a major source of abortion-related statistics.

The adoption board is working on a new estimate of infant adoptions for 2019 and 2020. Its interim CEO, Ryan Hanlon, predicted the number would be similar to the 2014 estimate.

Hanlon says there’s a huge gap between the number of American infants available for adoption and the hundreds of thousands of Americans – single adults and couples – who want to adopt.

“There are dozens of them waiting with every agency for every child they place,” Hanlon said.

Kelsey Wright chose adoption – twice. She got pregnant in high school and, at 18, gave birth to a son in 2011. Feeling unprepared for parenthood, she placed the baby for adoption with a family she knew.

Six years later, as a later relationship broke up, she fell pregnant again. And again, she chose to continue the pregnancy and place her second son in the same family who adopted her brother.

“At first I thought, ‘How do I get out of this?’ and the abortion comes to mind, but I don’t think it lasted more than 24 hours, ”Wright said. “Of Christian origin. I just couldn’t do that – there was no way I could end their life because of what I did.

Now 29, Wright lives in suburban Houston and got married last year. She and her husband have a 4 month old daughter. She keeps in touch with her sons, visiting occasionally even though their family has moved to New Mexico.

“I have no regrets,” Wright said. “It took a while to heal, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am so grateful that adoption was an option.

Some women who have opted for an abortion in response to an unwanted pregnancy say the decision was difficult, but they are also grateful that they had the choice. Among them is US Representative Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California, who says she underwent a “clandestine” abortion in Mexico after a teenage pregnancy.

Lee said adoption “is an alternative to parenthood, not pregnancy.”

“The fight for the right to abortion is not about our individual positions on abortion or adoption – it is about the right of each person to make decisions about their personal health,” she said. . “Your choices about your body, your health, and your family are none other than your own.”

Many abortion rights advocates are suspicious of certain aspects of private adoption, seeing it as part of the agenda of those opposed to abortion.

Mallory Schwarz, executive director of Pro-Choice Missouri, said the anti-abortion pregnancy centers that are proliferating in many states are part of that system.

“The role of crisis pregnancy centers is to trick people into making the right decision for themselves so that they choose to give up – choose to carry a pregnancy and then give up a baby to be adopted. “said Schwarz.

Jeanneane Maxon of the Charlotte Lozier Institute – former general counsel for a network of pregnancy centers – denies that there is systemic coercion. Most women who visit the centers and then carry a pregnancy to term choose to raise the baby on their own, she said.

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